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Chinese String Guy in action

Hybernaut captures him at Park Street. You know what would be cool? A mashup with him and Spare Change Guy. No?

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this man tortures my evening commute home. i would feel better knowing that it is a) a real instrument and b) that is really how it is supposed to sound. does anyone know?

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Erhu - Chinese violin:

... The erhu sounds similar to human voice, and can imitate many natural sounds such as birds and horse. It is a very expressive instrument, most well-known for playing melancholic tune, but also capable of play merry melody ...

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And I'd have walked from Park to Government Center in the cold to get away from this guy. Luckily, just then, a Green Line pulled in.

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The erhu became indistinguishable from squealing brakes?

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...that the squealing brakes sounded to me like the sound of hope and freedom.

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What amazes me is that this guy has been playing around Park St. and Harvard Sq for years (at least a decade) yet never improves. Never. Why do people even encourage him by giving him money?

Here's what good Ehru playing is supposed to sound like.

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I gave him a dollar a few years ago.

During the period I was photographing street performers in Harvard Square for practice, I had little cards that offered free copies of the images, since I knew some performers could use them.

I'd fold a dollar around the card when i dropped it in their case or jar, for two reasons: to avoid "wtf is this; I need rent money, not promo photos, jerk" disappointment when they find it, and because it was annoying seeing a crowd of people and snapshotting tourists around a good performer but nobody donating. It's not a free performance by the city, nor part of the all-inclusive tour bus package from Ohio, buddy.

The Chinese string guy, you can't say someone can't perform in public (though I really wanted to tell that to the guy banging the drum kit in Harvard Square the other day), but I'd welcome having a volume limit for all street performers. No reason a performer's noises need to fill the entire area, forcing people to listen unwillingly.

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as well as a permit program and some rules to keep them a certain distance from each other. This came about because of 'amplifier wars' between performers back in the 1980s. How well any of it is enforced, I don't know.

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Wow that erhu sounds beautiful in the YouTube clip. Who would have known?! Although I do have a question. Why does Chinese String Guy play? Has anyone ever asked him his story?

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You can hear this instrument played beautifully in the soundtracks of any number of wonderful Chinese films.

The pathetic erhu player had a predecessor -- another elderly little man who abused a standard violin -- playing worse than the average beginning violin student. This was about 6-7 years ago (at least). This person was usually found in various downtown subway stations.

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My wife is from China, and she has told me that 1) this guy isn't that good and 2) usually this instrument is played in an orchestra as part of an opera. My coworker couldn't stand that guy when we were working in Harvard Square.

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...and this ain't it.

This man is absolutely the worst street musician I've ever heard and is the source for many of my head-splitting migraines. I guess some people think he's kitschy or something?

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However the grand prize winner was the woman who sang opera at the Davis Square subway stop 10 years ago.

Last Christmas I was at rockerfeller Center and heard what this instrument is SUPPOSED to sound like. It is beautiful when played correctly.

This guy has driven people away from the Square in droves...

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The guy is a genius - great outsider art. Well, okay he's not Eddie 'One string' Jones, but for someone who you can catch every day, that's hard to beat.

You can't fake that 1000 yard stare, and the intensity which he gives out every single day. He's playing exactly what he wants with the pure dedication that only comes when it's from the soul.

Charlatans like Bono would KILL to have an ounce of the ability to do something uncontrived with this level of absolute sincerity.

I don't know how much money I've given him over the years - worth it for a legend though.

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I think the Globe ran an article about him a few months ago. Needless to say he's self-taught. The sounds he wracks out of this thing can make babies cry, but he is devoted to doing whatever the heck he is trying to do. I respect him and he is apparently making a living. Someone must like it. I don't dislike it as long as I'm just passing by.

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An activity done with dedication and sincerity should not be confused with one done with expertise. There is nothing special about the "1000 yard stare." Quite often, it can result from a low-level of intelligence or a ruined mind. In this case, one would have to assume the former.

Either he is incapable of learning how to draw the bow across the string and produce a beautiful singing sound, or he does not wish to do so. By handing the man your money, you are supporting his incompetence or his belief that these noises are music.

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